PEARL JAM-“Backspacer”

How does Pearl Jam do it? Here they are, a group of individuals approaching middle age in a band that, in rock-and-roll terms, is older than dirt. How many partnerships survive 15 years together? Where I’m from, that’s enough time to have been married and divorced already. If you’re Larry King, it’s enough time to have done that twice. You can go the Rolling Stones route, and become a novelty act, or the Elton John route, and make a home in Las Vegas. Or you can dump the band and go solo (I’m talking to you, Axl!), or dump the singer and hire a new one (Velvet Revolver!). But if you stay together, can you keep coming up with fresh licks and hooks? Can your lead singer still bring range and power, and can he still write with passion? Again, most marriages can’t keep it hot for this long. Can your rhythm section continue to bring surprise and bounce, even if they must know where the song is going—because they’ve been a part of a
hundred ones in the same style?

The answer to all these questions, if you’re Pearl Jam, is a resounding, “Yes!” The band has never gone dramatically off the reservation—they’re a rock and grunge tour band who sometimes get together in a studio and bang out 9-12 new songs but who mostly stay on the road. Backspacer is not their best album, but it’s also not their worst. Musically, it’s probably closest to Vitalogy or Yield—punky, aggressive, fast and hard, with a few slow numbers to let you catch your breath. Think The Who circa It’s Hard meets The Rolling Stones circa Tattoo You. Then throw in some Iggy Pop. It’s nice to see these guys haven’t slowed down a bit. And with this album, they’re indie! It’s been released on their own Monkeywrench Records.

Keep going, guys. Never slow down, never surrender.

Johnny Guitar (YSI)

Oldies but goodies!

Throw Your Hatred Down (w/ Neil Young) (YSI)

I Can’t Explain (Who cover) (YSI)

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